3 Stars of the Week: Schmaltz's beauty, Leighton breaks AHL record
/ Chicago Blackhawks
On Mondays, the Blackhawks Blog will highlight players who stood out for their minor-league, junior, college, or European teams in the previous week’s action. All prospect/system stats will be updated weekly throughout the 2015-16 season.
(UND Athletics/Peter Bottini)
1st Star: C Nick Schmaltz, University of North Dakota (NCHC) The Line: 1GP, 1G, 3A
Schmaltz may have scored just five goals for North Dakota this season, but a couple of them have been highlight-reel material. Case in point: this beauty from UND’s big 8-1 win over Western Michigan on Friday. Chicago’s first-round pick in 2014 also added three assists to match his season high of four points in a game, and the sophomore now ranks third on the team with 34 points in 29 games, while his 29 helpers are seventh in the nation.
March 5, 2016, will go down in American Hockey League history as the night when Johnny Bower’s shutout record was broken by Rockford starter Michael Leighton, who made 35 saves in a 5-0 win over Lake Erie to record his 46th career clean sheet. The 34-year-old also stopped 30 of 32 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss to Grand Rapids last Wednesday. Leighton now has a 27-6-8 record in 43 appearances for the IceHogs this season along with a .920 save percentage.
(Photo courtesy Rockford IceHogs)
3rd Star: RW Mark McNeill, Rockford IceHogs (AHL) The Line: 3GP, 2G, 2A
The 2011 first-round pick has been extremely productive since the calendar flipped to 2016, and last week was no different as he notched points in all three tilts for Rockford, including a multi-point effort against Lake Erie on Saturday and the game-winner in a 2-1 win over the Monsters the next evening. McNeill now has 24 points (12G, 12A) over his last 24 games and leads the IceHogs with 35 points in 45 games this season.
Bryan Bickell tallied Rockford’s lone goal against Grand Rapids last Wednesday, then opened the scoring against Lake Erie on Saturday and added a helper on linemate McNeill’s GWG the next night. Bickell has 13 goals and 29 points in 31 AHL games this season.
Defenseman Ville Pokka picked up three assists in three games last weekend, including two in Sunday’s win over Lake Erie to celebrate his 22nd birthday. The Tornio, Finland, native now has a career-high 32 points (6G, 26A) in 57 games this season.
Around the system:
Top defensive prospect Gustav Forsling tallied a power-play goal and added an assist for Linkoping in a 4-3 overtime win over Orebro last Tuesday. The 19-year-old ranks second among team blueliners and shares 14th in the league at his position with 20 points (6G, 14A) this season.
Radovan Bondra recorded a goal and an assist in four games for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants last week and now has 27 points in 54 games during his North American debut season... Graham Knott picked up a goal and an assist with Niagara in the OHL last week, including the game-winner in a 4-2 win over Erie on Sunday to reach the 100-point mark. The 2015 second-round pick has 35 points, including a career-high 25 helpers, in 62 games this season.
Tyler Motte collected an assist in each of Michigan’s games against Ohio State last weekend, extending his point streak to 16 games. With 97 career points, the 2013 fourth-round pick is now three away from becoming the 85th player in program history to reach the 100 mark.
Tanner Kero recorded a goal and an assist in Rockford’s 5-0 win over Lake Erie on Saturday and now shares the team lead with 17 tallies; he has 28 points in 41 games in his AHL debut... Matt Fraser made his debut with the club after being acquired from Winnipeg last week and picked up his first point (1A) on Saturday... Kyle Baun netted his first AHL goal to open the scoring for the IceHogs on Sunday against Lake Erie.
Netminder Drew MacIntyre won his debut with Rockford after making 38 saves on 39 shots against Lake Erie on Sunday. The 32-year-old, who was acquired from Carolina for Dennis Robertson last week, now has a combined 12-13-1 record with a .895 save percentage this season.